Nearly a ton of taxpayer-provided food gets tossed in the trash every day at a massive Manhattan hotel being used to house migrants — because they’d rather secretly cook their own meals on dangerous hot plates, a whistleblowing worker has revealed.
Disturbing photos show garbage bags full of sandwiches and bagels awaiting disposal at the four-star Row NYC hotel near Times Square, where the city pays a daily rate as high as $500 per room, hotel employee Felipe Rodriguez told The Post.
“It’s a crime to be throwing out so much food,” he said.
Other images show a hotel room littered with empty beer cans and bottles following a wild World Cup viewing party in November, Rodriguez said.
That gathering — in a room whose occupant “gave the key to a cousin” while she “was in the Bronx, hanging out” — erupted into a fight over the match that left one man with a “big knot on his head,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he also shot a brief video clip of two female migrants engaged in a hair-pulling fight outside the hotel during New Year’s Eve festivities last week.
The 23-second cellphone recording shows men holding what appear to be beer cans while struggling to separate the women after they tumbled off the sidewalk into the street.
A bag of uneaten sandwiches thrown away at the Row NYC hotel in Manhattan where migrants are being housed. Felipe Rodriguez
A hotel employee told The Post the migrants aren’t interested in the hotel’s menu of prepared food. Felipe Rodriguez
An NYPD source who was working in Times Square on New Year’s Eve confirmed the chaos at the hotel, saying the lobby was littered with broken bottles and some revelers were dancing while others were sprawled out on the furniture and the floor.
“It was a total s–t show,” the cops said.
City Hall has refused to say how much it pays to rent out the Row or any of the scores of other hotels being used to house migrants.
But Rodriguez said he’s “heard from management it’s between $400 and $500 a night, per room, depending on how big the room is.”
Rodriguez, 57, said he began working at the 1,300-room hotel in 2017 and was shocked by what’s happened since Mayor Eric Adams’ administration began using it as a “Humanitarian Response and Relief Center.”
Row NYC employee Felipe Rodriguez called the amount of food wasted by the migrants a “crime.”Dennis A. Clark
“What changed in October was dramatic,” he said. “There are some nice migrants in that hotel looking for that American dream, that second chance to make it in society. But there are a lot of migrants there that are causing chaos. We have a lot of fights, a lot of drugs, a lot of sexual harassment abuse.”
An NYPD source confirmed that cops have responded to a string of domestic incidents at the hotel.
Rodriguez said NYPD officers were initially stationed in the lobby but were replaced by National Guard soldiers in December.
Rodriguez also said the hotel had a list “of people that are supposed to be quarantined — for COVID, chickenpox, whatever it is.”
“Nobody supervises those people,” he said. “Once they get bored, they flee. We don’t know who’s sick and who’s not sick.”
Rodriguez added ruefully: “We are in an environment that is hostile, violent and not safe anymore.”
A hotel room covered in empty beer cans and bottles after several migrants had a World Cup party.Felipe Rodriguez
The Row NYC is one of four HERRCs that the city has opened in large Manhattan hotels, in addition to renting out 71 smaller hotels across the city, as of Sunday.
The expanding roster of hotels is being used to house about 26,100 of the 38,700 migrants who’ve flooded into the Big Apple since the spring, according to City Hall’s latest count.
Officials initially planned to have migrants undergo processing in the HERRCs for just 72 hours but abandoned that goal after getting overwhelmed by the influx that led Adams to declare a state of emergency in October.
Rodriguez — who was wrongfully convicted in a fatal 1987 stabbing in Queens and released from prison in January 2017 — said that at least 40 percent of the food supplied to migrants at the Row gets thrown out.
Rodriguez also estimated the amount wasted at “almost a ton” a day.
“How do I know that? Because the sanitation guys go floor by floor every day picking up the trash,” he said. “Before, it used to be something like six, seven bags in the back landing of each floor. Now they’re picking up 15, 20 bags.
Rodriguez said some of the bags of food he throws away weigh 60 pounds.Felipe Rodriguez
“Anything [the migrants] don’t consume is in those bags, and they’re heavy. I weighed one of the bags full of sandwiches one time and it weighed 60 pounds.”
Rodriguez added: “There have been times when we couldn’t take all of the garbage out because the bins were full, and I’m talking about 25, 30 bins of garbage.”
“My problem is, why are we throwing away so much food? Someone from the city should have said, ‘Let’s order less food so we throw less food out.’ But nobody cares,” he said.
At the same time, Rodriguez said, he’s confiscated hot plates, pressure cookers and other forbidden kitchen items from hotel residents at least eight times.
“I felt horrible. They want a hot meal. They don’t want sandwiches. They want a cooked meal like in their own country. And that’s a serious issue,” he said.
In addition to sandwiches and bagels, the migrants are served food including fruit, peanuts, chips, juice, soda and prepared dinners that “you heat in a microwave,” Rodriguez said.
“They don’t like the menu. They just don’t. They want rice and beans, plantains, tostones,” he said.
Rodriguez recalled one incident last month when “I knocked on the door on the 18th floor to deliver a duvet and I saw smoke and could hear a fire alarm going off.”
“I put in my key and pushed open the door, and a whole bunch of smoke came out,” he said. “A lady was there and I said, ‘What are you doing?’ She said, ‘Nothing.’ I said, ‘What do you mean nothing? Where’s all this smoke coming from?’ She said, ‘I don’t know.’”
Rodriguez said he searched the room and found a pot of burned rice hidden in the bathroom vanity, along with two more pots, a frying pan and “an old hot plate” under the bed.
Residents cooking food in a hotel room at Row NYC with a hot plate. Felipe Rodriguez
“It was older than my grandmother, and my grandmother’s been gone a long time,” he said. “I was like, ‘Seriously? This is electrical. If these wires spark and something goes wrong, this whole building will be on fire.’”
Rodriguez — who kept working at the hotel even after scoring a $5 million settlement from the state in April — said he felt so bad that he gave the family $300 the next day and told them to go to a restaurant.
But Rodriguez said he understood why the hotel “can’t allow” the migrants to cook in their rooms.
“They usually put the hot plate on the rug so that nobody can see it and it stays away from the fire alarm,” he said. “If those polyester curtains by the windows touch that red coil, it’s over. It’s a possibility that scares the s–t out of everybody in the Row.
“If you are on the 27th floor, the 28th floor, and a fire breaks out, the elevators are gone. That means you have to use the stairs,” he said. “My biggest concern is the children. We have too many children in that hotel. We have pregnant women in the hotel … The tragedy would be devastating.”
In addition, Rodriguez said that the Row “forgot about the standards we had when we had regular guests.”
“If they got caught smoking in the hotel, it was a $500 charge. You could smoke outside, but you couldn’t stand in front so that people wouldn’t get secondhand smoke,” he said. “The protocols went down the toilet because migrants can smoke weed, they can smoke cigarettes. You can’t tell them nothing.”
Rodriguez also alleged that he’s seen some residents apparently selling drugs outside the hotel and that he took photos of some scooters that were chained up nearby.
Trash and leftover food in one of the hotel rooms used by migrants. Felipe Rodriguez
“One of the guys said, ‘Yo, why are you taking pictures?’ I said, ‘Because they don’t belong here.’ He said, ‘They’re ours.’ I said, ‘How are they yours if you just got here? How do you get money to buy scooters? These are brand new scooters?’” he recalled, adding that he never got a straight answer.
Rodriguez first spoke about what he’s seen and documented at the Row in an interview with ABC7 New York’s “Eyewitness News.”
Rodriguez, who has always maintained his innocence in the slaying of Maureen McNeill Fernandez, was convicted in 1990, largely on testimony from a police informant who later admitted helping frame Rodriguez.
Then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo commuted Rodriguez’s sentence in December 2016 and he was cleared in 2019 by a judge who called the case a “miscarriage of justice.”
Rodriguez said he kept his hotel job — which nets him $800 a week after taxes — following his wrongful-conviction settlement because “I get something out of going to work, doing something that’s purposeful.”
Some migrants allegdly smoke marijuana and cigarettes inside the room despite the hotel policy on smoking. Felipe Rodriguez
He kept working through the COVID-19 pandemic when the Row — formerly known as the Milford Plaza, which advertised itself as the “Lullabuy of Broadway” in memorable 1980s TV commercials — rented out four floors to the city to house homeless people.
“The rest of the floors were for airline employees, tourists from Europe. During the United Nations General Assembly, we had Secret Service and FBI staying with us. It was a fantastic hotel,” he said.
In October, Rodriguez said, “We were told the hotel was going to have migrants, but it was only going to be five floors, and that was it.
“When the hotel says that migrants were going to be a good business, they canceled the airlines’ contracts and they decided they weren’t going to rent to regular guests anymore. And they went and gave the city the entire hotel,” he said.
The hotel’s website now has a large notice on its homepage that says: “ROW NYC HOTEL IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. PLEASE CHECK BACK FOR ANNOUNCEMENTS AND UPDATES.”
The Row didn’t return requests for comment and NYC Health + Hospitals, which oversees the hotel and the other HERRCs, referred questions to City Hall, which issued a prepared statement that said, “All clients are offered a food selection that reflects the diets of residents and is prepared same-day to ensure freshness.”
“Last month, residents were even asked to participate in guest surveys to help us refine and expand menu options. Of course, we cannot and would not ever force clients to finish food they had taken but we do donate leftover food when possible,” the statement added.
City officials also said the Row has security workers assigned to every floor to spot any problems and ensure the safety of residents and staffers.
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